Whether you’re new to search engine optimization or just need a little refresher, this beginner’s guide will quickly get you back up to speed on the SEO basics.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) comprises all measures necessary to increase the visibility of a website in the organic search results of search engines such as Google or Bing. The goal of SEO is to grow the number of qualified visitors to a website. To this end, search engine optimization tactics aim to create the technically best website with the best content within the competition.
After all, search engine optimization is primarily focused on meeting a user need. In short, search engine optimization means: What is good for your users is also good for search engines.
You can measure the success of SEO activities using indicators such as visibility, visitor numbers, and return on investment (ROI).
SEO is one of two disciplines of search engine marketing (SEM). Search engine marketing is part of online marketing and aims to increase the visibility of a website in the SERPs. The other part of SEM is search engine advertising (SEA).
The basic difference between SEO and SEA is that advertisers have to pay directly for visibility via SEA, i.e. clicks on search ads, while clicks on organic search are free and good organic rankings depend on algorithms.
With that said, SEO is not necessarily "free." Even if you don't invest a budget in SEO services or tools, you’ll need time and resources for search engine optimization.
Newcomers often assume that SEO is a one-time affair. Once optimized, the website should then achieve permanently good rankings. But in fact, search engine optimization means continuous work on the website. And there are two central reasons for this:
Search engines use user behavior to evaluate website quality, determine rankings, and present search results. For example, search engines take into account whether a user quickly returns to the search results after clicking on a website (return-to-SERP rate) and use bounce rates and dwell times to check how user-friendly a website is. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to focus on optimizing for users and not for the search engine themselves.
The changing search behavior of users affects how search engines evaluate websites and rank them. One example: In recent years, the ratio of mobile users to desktop users has reversed. More than half of Internet users do so on mobile. For this reason, Google has introduced mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor and checks whether your website is "mobile-friendly".
When you start with SEO, you should always keep in mind that you are not the only one doing SEO. If you stay at a certain optimization level and don't regularly adapt the content or the technology of your website to the user needs, you will lose out in the long term.
To motivate you, here is another big plus of search engine optimization: it is a very cost-efficient part of online marketing. For example, you don't pay per click or conversion as you do with search engine advertising (SEA), but in the best case, you can take care of SEO yourself. SEO is not magic, but a craft that requires experience and continuity.
Search engines aim to provide users with the exact information that satisfies their search query. A search engine requires two steps for this: First, web pages are crawled and indexed, then the search engine delivers relevant answers based on its index in the form of so-called "snippets" in the search results. By the way, these results are called "organic" search results. They stand out from the paid search ads.
Crawling is the process by which search engines discover and capture new and updated content on websites. A crawler also called a bot or spider, "crawls" the continuously WWW, for example by following links in the source code of websites.
As soon as the crawler reaches a website, it looks for the robots.txt file. This file tells the crawler which parts of the website may be crawled and which may not. Subsequently, only the areas that have been specified in robots.txt are crawled. As a rule, the crawler then saves the content of the page if it does not find any duplicate content in the process and assumes that the website will improve the search results. This saving process is also called indexing. The result of crawling and indexing is a huge collection of data that search engines use to deliver relevant search results to users.
When a user types in a search query, the search engine immediately queries its index for matching information. The results are displayed on the search engine result pages (SERPs) in descending relevance. Relevance and rankings of the individual results are determined by the search engine used and its algorithms (=ranking algorithms).
Search engines keep the algorithms secret so that no one can manipulate their rankings. However, some of these ranking factors have been clearly named by search engine providers. These include loading speed, incoming links, website quality, and page experience with its Core Web Vitals.
In the simplest sense, SEO helps qualified users find your website. "Qualified" means that your visitors are really looking for what you offer. Without search engine optimization, websites might not be found at all or might be found by the wrong target group. SEO targets websites to user need and makes them a fundamental part of any digital marketing mix.
In addition, SEO has other positive side effects. If you're not quite convinced yet, here are some additional reasons why you should start with search engine optimization:
Within search engine optimization there are two main directions: White Hat and Black Hat SEO. Likewise, there are two basic types of SEO: OnPage and OffPage optimization. If you are a prudent marketer, you will naturally rely on White Hat SEO while using both OnPage and OffPage tactics. Because this variant agrees with the quality guidelines of the search engines (e.g. Google Webmaster Guidelines) and puts the user need in the center. White Hat is thus the "standard" of search engine optimization. This is because, due to the ever-improving algorithms of search engines such as Google, there is no longer any way for black hat tactics to succeed in the search results in the long term.
For example, Google quickly uncovers keyword stuffing, hidden texts or links, backlinks from link farms, comment spam, or doorway pages, and supposed quick successes in the SERPs will quickly be gone.
Best practices in search engine optimization, therefore, include the following:
OnPage SEO focuses on the optimization possibilities of your own website. By improving various components of your site, search engines can find, index, and rank your content more easily.
Done correctly, OnPage SEO can significantly improve the user experience and ultimately lead to better rankings in the SERPs.
You should consider the following basics when doing OnPage optimization:
OffPage optimization aims to increase the reputation of a website. Backlinks are mainly used for this purpose. These are links from other websites to your own pages. For search engines, backlinks are similar to recommendations, which can indicate high-quality content. For this reason, high-quality backlinks can ensure better rankings.
Basically, two different types of backlinks can be distinguished: Organic backlinks and links generated through link building. Link building refers to measures with which you can build backlinks.
Whether an incoming link is "good" can be determined by many different factors. One quality characteristic is the so-called link juice, which a link passes on to its target page. A synonym for this is also Pagerank or Link Equity.
The quality of a backlink is influenced by, among other things:
Besides backlinks, there are other aspects to OffPage SEO. These are for example guest blogs, influencer marketing or social media marketing. In fact, you can consider all mentions of your brand outside your own website as OffPage SEO.
These are the techniques you should avoid at all costs if you want your website to rank well in search engines and meet the user needs of your target audience:
In addition to the usual measures, regular analysis and control of your website is an important prerequisite for long-term success. Because only in this way you can best understand errors and optimize all areas perfectly.
Here you will find practical tools from Ryte that will help you in your daily SEO work.
Through the higher rankings, you will receive more qualified visitors, who in turn will provide for purchases or inquiries. Therefore, SEO should always be an elementary part of a digital marketing strategy.
This little guide should only give you a first insight into the world of SEO. To learn more about the specific characteristics of search engine optimization, you should also keep an eye on the following terms. They are among the top topics in the SEO scene:
Apply your knowledge and get started with a SEO check of your website
Published on 07/14/2021 by Philipp Roos.
Philipp is an extended member of the Ryte family and supports Ryte with the latest SEO know-how and digital marketing news.